The Embrace of Randy Travis by the Texas Music Scene

Country Music Hall of Famer Randy Travis was born and raised in North Carolina, and made his name in Nashville, first by taking the stage at the Nashville Palace between frying catfish and washing dishes, and later as a neotraditional superstar who busted doors down, and eventually paved the way for the “Class of ’89” (Garth, Alan, Clint, and Travis Tritt) to do their thing.

But lately here it’s been Texas where Randy Travis has not only made his home, but been embraced as part of the community. After divorcing his long-time manager and wife Elizabeth Hatcher in 2010 after a 19-year relationship, Randy Travis moved to the Chrysalis Ranch in Tioga, TX, north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area with his soon-to-be-wife Mary. A few years later in 2013 is when Randy suffered his severe stroke that continues to impair his ability to perform.

From his perch in Texas though, Randy Travis has embraced numerous of the Texas artists as a mentor and a champion as best he can. Though still unable to get around well, wife Mary has made a point to make sure Randy remains a part of the music community, regularly appearing at venues in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and in nearby Oklahoma for shows.

As an example, Randy Travis made a surprise appearance at Heritage Hall in Ardmore, Oklahoma for a Cody Jinks show in January of 2019. Shortly after Jinks performed “Diggin’ Up Bones,” Randy surprised Cody Jinks by coming out on stage. Accompanied by his wife Mary, Randy personally thanked Cody Jinks as Jinks humbly took his hat off and the crowd began to chant in unison, “Randy! Randy! Randy!”

Then Mary told the assembled crowd,“[Remember] when George Jones said, ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?’ He said Randy Travis. And I just want to tell you tonight, when people ask us who is gonna fill Randy Travis’s shoes, [it’s] Cody Jinks.”

Randy Travis also gave a shout out to Cody Jinks in his biography, Forever and Ever, Amen, so no, Mary was not embellishing. And even though Randy’s ability to speak remains impaired, the country legend is otherwise cognitively sound, and is able to communicate his feeling and opinions to those around him.

A similar scene went down on Saturday, January 9th when The Josh Abbott Band was playing a socially distanced show at “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk” a.k.a Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, and Randy Travis showed up on stage unexpectedly. Josh Abbott serenaded Randy with an acoustic version of “Forever and Ever, Amen,” with the crowd singing along, and everyone going wild after the conclusion (see video below).

“Like all of you, I grew up on the music of Randy Travis. He’s a legend, said Josh Abbott, who released his latest album The Highway Kind in November, and is also part of The Panhandlers supergroup. “This song was my wife & and I’s ‘send-off dance’ at our wedding. For him to come to our show and us have this moment, it’s just special. I’m soaking this one in.”

Travis has been making other such surprise appearances in Texas and Oklahoma since moving to the region. But what might be most surprising is what’s been happening on Texas radio lately.

In July of 2020, Randy Travis released a new song called “Fool’s Love Affair.” The song was unearthed by SiriusXM DJ and former music publisher Charlie Monk. Before Randy Travis signed his major label deal, he signed up with Monk Family Music as a songwriter. Charlie Monk co-wrote “Fool’s Love Affair” with Keith Stegall, who was also an early champion of Randy Travis when much of Music Row considered Randy “too country.” Randy Travis was tapped to sing on the demo of “Fool’s Love Affair,” and that’s how the song came into being.

In 2019 when cleaning out his office, Charlie Monk found the original multitrack master tape of the song from the early 80’s. From there they were able to isolate Randy’s vocals, and add new music to the demo which gave renewed life to “Fool’s Love Affair.”

The release of “Fool’s Love Affair” was not just about releasing another unearthed Randy Travis single. Those following the Randy Travis story know that he really received the short end of the stick when it comes to his business affairs since his former wife Lib Hatcher also had power of attorney and other privileges over Randy’s entire catalog. The release of the song was an attempt to help give second life to the Randy Travis legacy, and make sure he doesn’t go forgotten like so many country music greats.

Along with the song release, radio station networks such as Cumulus, iHeartRadio, Townsquare, Entercom, and SiriusXM signed on to play the song on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 to celebrate the anniversary of Randy’s first radio single. Many country media outlets and big-named artists also helped to promote the song.

But that was about the extend of the support behind “Fool’s Love Affair,” except in Texas. Texas regional radio has continued to embrace the single, even as the rest of the country music sphere moved on. This week, “Fool’s Love Affair” sits at #8 on the Texas Regional Radio Chart, right above Aaron Watson’s “Silverado Saturday Night.”

Of course, Texas regional radio does not have nearly the reach of its mainstream counterpart. But it does illustrate how the Texas music scene has embraced the great Randy Travis, and is returning the favor for what he’s done not just for country music, but for the rising and established stars that Randy has put his name behind in the region. Also, “Fool’s Love Affair” happens to be a really good song.

Randy Travis wasn’t born or raised in Texas, nor did he launch his career from the state like so many of country music’s finest. But he’s in Texas now, and the state couldn’t be more proud.

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